Scientology, or officially the ”Church of Scientology,” was founded by adherents of Lafayette Ron Hubbard (1911-86) in 1954, but the movement behind Scientology dates back to Hubbard’s publication of the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1950. Dianetics was a therapeutic system which Hubbard claimed could cure psychosomatic illness. Dianetics can be described as an attack on what Hubbard considered to be the materialistic position of psychiatry. Hubbard stressed that he wanted to overcome the unspiritual therapeutic strategies he saw in psychiatry and to deliver the techniques for everyone to reach mental whole someness. In his anthropology, man is basically good and strives for survival of various collectives termed ”dynamics,” in Dianetics from the individual level to that of humanity, and in Scientology he added further levels up to the ”urge towards existence as infinity,” termed the ”God Dynamic.”
Dianetics assumes that a person receives and stores impressions, the so called ”engrams,” painful memories from this or earlier lives, leading an individual to irrational acts. The aim of Dianetics was that man should reach the state of ”clear” – completely rational. The Dianetics therapy is based on ”auditing,” which involves an auditor who listens to the statements of the ”pre-clear,” as the person in an auditing session is termed. Besides the principles underlining the early steps of the auditing, the contents up towards and above clear are not known to outsiders, as it is considered dangerous knowledge for people who have not acquired it through proper auditing.
After a number of conflicts – including conflicts with the established psychiatric and psychological therapeutic system – economic crisis, and the fact that he lost the copyright to his own book, Hubbard formed a new organization and the first Church of Scientology was founded in 1954. From an organizational point of view, the Church of Scientology appears to be in contrast to Dianetics. Dianetics was loosely organized, public, and impossible to manage for Hubbard, whereas the Church of Scientology is hierarchic, with control systems making sure that all employees act in accordance with the wishes of the organization. This has been reshuffled and strengthened a number of times. The Sea Organization (Sea Org) was founded as an elite group of Scientologists committing themselves up to a billion years in 1967. In 1981 the religious activities were collected in the Church of Scientology International and since 1982 the religious activities have been overseen by the Religious Technology Center, which holds all the trade and service marks of Hubbard’s work since his death.
The organizational development has been identified as one of the rare transformations from a so called cult to a sect. The cult consists of open minded seekers in a cultic milieu, whereas the sect claims to have a unique way of salvation which the adherents have to follow (Wallis 1977).
In its belief system, influences from theosophy, Eastern religions, and interplanetary activity can be seen, and Scientology emphasizes that members may sustain other religious member ships as well. As a consequence, it is difficult to determine the exact number of Scientologists. In many countries Scientology does not keep central membership files, and beyond an active core many Scientologists have little or no con tact with the church, even if they consider themselves Scientologists. World based estimates vary from about 1 million to the official figure of 8 million in 2004.
Hubbard’s utilitarian ethics led him to invesigate a number of social phenomena and based on his findings there are now separate organizations for the improvement of education (Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE) and Applied Scholastics) and drug habilitation (Narconon). Other organizations include the Way to Happiness Foundation, and the Citizens Commission for Human Rights (CCHR). Apart from general human rights activities, the CCHR continues Hubbard’s fight with the psychiatric system, where it tries to document abuses in medication and links to Nazi medicine.
Whereas social activities have been kept within the general frame of Scientology, there have recently been attempts to disseminate techniques to improve the situation of individuals beyond the lines of Scientology. This is a reaction to the events following the attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001. Scientology considers the ”War against Terror” dangerous for humanity, and thinks that it has set the world on a course towards destruction. The attempt to disseminate techniques to improve individuals has been accompanied by a general recruitment campaign, to ”clear the world.”
Scientology’s widespread activities have been difficult to fit into classificatory frameworks of health science, psychiatry, religion, and social activities in general. Scientology insists that auditing is a primary religious activity, and has faced problems being recognized as a full-fledged religious body in countries (e.g., Great Britain) where religious activities are deemed to be collective. Many countries have allowed Scientology to register as a religious body due to the general religious content of the system (e.g., in the USA, Australia, Sweden, Germany). In some places the related social activities are considered religious, and in others charitable, independent of whether Scientology is recognized as a religious body in the country or not.
- Frenschkowski, M. (1999) L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology: An Annotated Bibliographical Survey of Primary and Selected Secondary Literature. Marburg Journal of Religion 4(1): July.
- Melton, J. G. (2000) The Church of Scientology, Signature Books, Lexington, KY.
- Wallis, R. (1977) The Road to Total Freedom: A Sociological Analysis of Scientology. Columbia University Press, New York.
- Whitehead, H. (1987) Renunciation and Reformulation: A Study of Conversion in an American Sect. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.
- Willms, G. (2005) Kulturbeobachtungen jenseits der Devianz. Verlag, Bielefeld.
- Wilson, B. R. (1990) Scientology: A Secularized Religion. In: The Social Dimensions of Sectarianism: Sects and New Religious Movements in Contemporary Society. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 267-88.
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